Album Notes


Upper Air Observation


[1]         Vara (28:12)

                  Joseph Kubera, piano


[2]         Self Portrait  (10:08)


[3]         Trio for a flute player  (12:40)


[4]         Lyrictron (06:39)


[5]         Upper Air Observation  (09:41)

* * *

Vara, by Nils Vigeland

Vara for flute and piano was composed in 1979.  I was very conscious at the time of deliberately extending the materials, sonorously and durationally.  The title, discovered perusing the dictionary for another word for "variation," is a Portugese unit of measurement of no fixed length, a useful structural metaphor.

— Nils Vigeland


Self-Portrait, by Alvin Lucier

Self-Portrait is one of three works which explore the directivity of sound waves from musical instruments.  In Directions of Sounds from the Bridge(1978), flashlights are activated by waves flowing from a cello; in Shapes of Sounds from the Board (1979), the physical movement of amplified piano tones are heard.

In Self-Portrait, a flutist stands several feet from a wind anemometer.  A light is beamed through it, from the opposite side.  As the flutist plays long tones toward the anemometer, streams of air from the lip of the flute cause its blades to spin at various speeds, hiding and revealing parts of her body.

Self-Portrait was conceived in 1979.  It was completed in 1990 expressly for Barbara Held, who has performed it several times in the Unites States and Europe.

— Alvin Lucier


Trio for a Flute Player and  Lyrictron, by Yasunao Tone

Trio for a Flute Player uses three sound components, sound from the flute itself, the flutist's voice and electronic sounds, all to be performed by the solo flutist.  These components are based on a single source, poems from the 8th Century Japanese anthology, the Manyoshu.

The curvy line of calligraphy of the poem, overlaid by a musical staff, does not correspond with pitches or any tonalities but with the player's finger placements.  (Note that a flute player uses nine fingers, coinciding with the number of lines and spaces of the staff --- five lines and four spaces.)

Fingering, with its movement and pressure, triggers an electronic sound, varying in pitch and intensity, which is generated by an oscillator with a capacitor.  The poems, translated by Sid Corman in "The Peerless Mirror", are read through the flute mouthpiece.

The sound of the original Manyoshu poems, the other part of the "signifier" of the poem, serves as the substructure for the rhythm and intensity of performance.  The poems are not interpreted but transformed into sound.  The electronic system was designed by Yoshi Saito and slightly revised by David Meschter.  The piece was commissioned by Barbara Held and was made possible by funding from the New York State Council on the Arts' Commissioning Program.

In Lyrictron the sound of the flute causes a text to be generated by a computer system.

The source of the flute score is a western transcription of flute tablatures from the Tang dynasty.  When a tune is played the computer system detects pitches and converts the flute sound into a Haiku poem by choosing lines from a "dictionary" composed for this piece and stored in the computer.  The poem is displayed on a TV monitor and is read aloud by the voice synthesizer at the same time.

The process of generating Haiku from pitches played on the flute through a pitch tracking program is somehow similar to the Surrealist's "Cadavre Exquis" method of writing a chance-determined poem.

The Lyricron system was designed and assembled by David Meschter.  Lyrictron was commissioned by Mutable Music Productions for Barbara Held.

Both of these pieces were written as performance art, and are meant to be played and heard live.  For both pieces, then, this recording is a documentation of but one performance.  Especially in Lyrictron, I wish to emphasize that each performance is unique, due to the flutist's interpretation of the score and the design of the system itself.

— Yasunao Tone


Flute-to-Haiku conversion by David Meschter; pitch tracking software by Brad Stewart; commissioned by Yasunao Tone, September, 1988.

Gulls patrol the coastline
each other's perilous arms
purely speculative level

The white of summer sands
on the artistic plane
feeling the air cool

The high harvest moon
sleeping soundly in your bed
as purple dawn grows

In the hot thick air
surrounded by cedar forest
as abruptly a cuckoo singing

Under shining autumn skies
by the motionless water
the flame never ends

A cooling soft breeze
amid the palid mausoleum
perishing one after another

The scent of burning wood
the horizon gorged with light
leaves shivering with cold

The green of summer fields
against the headlight
we walk along the dirt path

Fall morning sunlight
gems of my natal walls
sitting in the reaching grass

In the heat of June's fury
dwelling-place of my love
abreast I am at last

Wiping sleep from my eyelids
on the quiet sands
smearing my eyes with grief


Upper Air Observation, by Barbara Held

The sounds for this piece, collected over the course of a year, include a radio sonde weather balloon launching, which I recorded at the National Weather Service in Atlantic City; a marine navigational system recorded off the coast of Spain; and the flute -- air in motion.  It is a collage of found sounds, the result of a sort of "audio anthropology."

— Barbara Held

"El vent es l'aire en moviment."

— Tomas Molina, TV3 Weatherman, Barcelona

El pas del temps metereologic travessat pel temps biologic compon – amb cadencies cosmiques, tecnologiques, i alhora intimes, corporals – una simfonia insolita i quotidiana, mecanica i gutural, en la qual l'enyor del temps passat i la nostalgia terrible de l'esdevenidor son embolcallats –  pel present del qui escolta la peca – amb cronologies liriques – de sensibilitat tremolosa – creades per una poetica de l'atmosfera terrestre entesa com a metafora estetica del jo.

— Carles Hac Mor

BARBARA HELD is a flutist and composer based in New York City and Barcelona, Spain.  One of " music's most valued performers" (Village Voice, 1990), her performances range from collaborations with choreographer Nancy Zendora, visual artist Francesca Llopis, composers Yasunao Tone, Jin Hi Kim and Alvin Lucier, to the Spanish premiere of Jaoquin Rodrigo's Concierto Pastoral with the Spanish National Orchestra in Madrid.  She has recorded various American and European radio programs, and is preparing a recording of a recently commissioned flute concerto by Robert Ashley.

Produced by:Thomas Buckner for Mutable Music Productions.

Design:  Francesca Llopis
Photos:  Jens Grundmann
Stylist:  Sebastian Alcala and Pixi
Art Direction:  By Design

Recording engineer:  Rob Rapley, Classic Sound

Special thanks:  Maurice Friedman (VIZ Corporation); Bob Gager, Wayne Albright & Jay Krieger (National Weather Service); Garuda Records; Brenda Hutchinson; Elisa Anachina; David Meschter; Tomas Molina.

Dedicated to Betty Held, 1932-1990

Copyright © 1979 Nils Vigeland (BMI)

Copyright © 1990 Alvin Lucier (BMI)

Copyright © 1988 Yasunao Tone

Copyright © 1991 Barbara Held

© & P 1991 Lovely Music, Ltd.

LCD 3031  [D] [D] [D]